C’s Breathe Sigh of Relief After Latest Update on Kemba’s Health

BOSTON – The Boston Celtics collectively breathed a sigh of relief Sunday, as they learned that Kemba Walker would be OK after sustaining a scary neck injury during Friday night’s game in Denver.

Walker collided head-first with the midsection of teammate Semi Ojeleye during the second quarter of that contest and fell straight to the floor, where he remained mostly motionless for several minutes before being carted off on a stretcher.

After consulting with doctors, it was confirmed that Walker suffered a strained neck, which is about as positive of an outcome that the Celtics could have hoped for. Coach Brad Stevens told the media Sunday afternoon that his star point guard could potentially return to action as soon as Monday night when the Celtics host the Sacramento Kings, though he is listed on the injury report as "doubtful" for precautionary reasons.

“It’s kind of a minor miracle based on what we saw the other day,” Stevens said following Sunday’s practice. “The strain is real and he’s got some soreness in his back and neck. But that’s it.”

Walker did not participate in Sunday’s practice, however, he was still able to exercise in the Auerbach Center weight room. His teammates were just happy to see his smiling face back in the building so soon after such a frightening incident.

“We’re glad that it wasn’t what it could have been, anything serious,” said Jaylen Brown. “We’ve seen that in our league before, a fall like that — I had one before – so it was good that he was able to not have anything too serious. Because anytime somebody leaves on a stretcher, it’s a bad depiction and you don’t want to see that.”

As Brown alluded to, he himself had experienced a head injury that was somewhat similar to that of Walker’s. Two seasons ago during a matchup in Minnesota, Brown slipped while going up for a dunk and ended up falling directly on his head, knocking him out cold. Medical staff on site brought a stretcher out for him, as well, but he managed to get helped up before being guided back into the locker room. He then missed several games after being placed into the league’s concussion protocol.

“I didn’t see what happened to Kemba,” said Brown, who was on the court when Friday's collision occurred, though had his back turned to the play. “But I could see Semi’s eyes, I could see the concern. So that’s when I knew it could potentially be serious. Anytime anything like that – the back, the head area is obviously serious.”

The moment took Stevens’ breath away, especially having been through a similar situation with a former player of his when he was coaching at Butler University.

“My number one thing was, is he moving?” Stevens recalled of his thoughts after watching Walker collapse onto the hardwood. “I actually had a kid at Butler who went in headfirst into the stanchion my last year and very temporarily lost movement. And that was the scariest thing I had ever been through. So that was my first thought. And then I saw him moving a little bit, but he was clearly balled up.”

Stevens didn’t get a chance to speak with Walker right away, but he saw him at halftime before being ambulanced to a local hospital and said his status had improved drastically.

“But it’s scary,” Stevens said of those types of incidents. “The head injuries, the neck injuries are always scary. And that’s the reason he’s doubtful (for Monday’s game), to be honest. I think he could probably play with the strain part, but we want to make sure with the way he hit, and certainly because of the sensitivity to head injuries.”

Brown agrees that Walker should take his time and make sure he’s feeling 100 percent healthy before returning to the court.

“There’s no rush for him to get back,” Brown stated. “If he’s feeling good, of course, but sometimes things like that you need to take a breath, take a break until he’s ready to go back into it.”

The Celtics, knowing that Walker caught a lucky break, can take a deep breath in the meantime. This could have been a far more serious situation for their floor general, but instead, he dodged a bullet and may not miss much action after all.

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